Stepping back in time to re-imagine the future of malls
When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown.
Looking back to the days when shopping centers were not just about commerce but entertainment and community as well could help explain some of the most significant changes currently being made in retailing.
A Washington Post analysis of the current state of malls refers to a new preference for "outdoor ‘town centers’ and ‘lifestyle centers’ that much more closely resemble the old urban downtowns — community centers with sidewalks, public spaces, outdoor restaurants — that the original indoor mall decades ago helped kill."
Watching from Australia, architect and city planner, Mark Hinshaw, told Radio Australia that he believes America’s malls were "a major phenomenon that’s lasted for six decades … people assumed they would go on forever. But that is changing; people are now looking at other ways of living."
Analysis from Wharton Business School, underpinned by a McKinsey report, also harks back to a time when people walked "downtown" to shop, eat and socialize.
Wharton real estate professor, Susan Wachter, notes a return to people living in cities, fuelling demand for combined residential and shopping areas, preferably near where they work. "Many of these malls are old — built in the 1950s and 1960s," she explained. "At the time, Americans were moving farther out from cities. Today, they’re moving back into cities."
Furthermore, Prof. Wachter cites McKinsey’s conclusion that "a storm of global trends are coming together at the same time to cause malls to change the role they play in people’s lives. No longer are they primarily about shopping. Now, when consumers visit malls, they are looking for experiences that go well beyond traditional shopping."
The Post’s conclusion? Today’s shopping centers are "vindication if you’re an urban planner or someone who never liked malls in the first place."
- Who will survive the great mall shakeout? – Knowledge@Wharton
- The future of the shopping mall – McKinsey
- Why no one likes indoor malls any more – The Washington Post (tiered sub.)
- Half of America’s shopping malls predicted to close by 2030 – Radio Australia
Do you see the mall concept given new life with the aid of outdoor lifestyle centers? To what extent will revived downtown areas replace the need for malls? How do you see the role of malls changing?